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A question for all veteran SPs...

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

What general advice do you have for separating yourself from that feeling of wanting to right all the wrongs of the seriously dysfunctional BM/BD?  I know its especially difficult if you are/were a conscientious parent with your own biokids.  

I'm assuming we all care about SKIDS, but where's that line?  That has been the hardest thing for me.  I always say, "I'm not their mom, but I am A MOM and its hard to shut off that instinct with kids who are sometimes in my care."  I know I have to shut it off sometimes, though and I'm working on more disengagement.  I would love to hear your thoughts about how you got to that point of separating your instincts from your actual responsibility with SKIDS.

Any helpful books would be welcome, too! Smile


ProbablyAlreadyInsane's picture

I've only been at it for like 2.5 years (of he!!).  TBH I just had to accept she's an absolute mess. Do I hate it? Yes.  Does it bother me? Ehhhh...

I realized I can't fix it, so might as well laugh at it.

beebeel's picture

It's just like unlearning any "bad habit." It takes time and practice.  You're going to backside and engage now and then when you shouldn't. Don't beat yourself up when you do. Just keep practicing the "not my monkey" mantra. I think it took a few years of "faking it" before I truly felt disengaged.

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Yes, I learned that one in therapy. lol She also tried to get me to step back and try to observe SKIDS behavior saying to myself, "Interesting" instead of actually involving myself in the situation.  Sometimes it works, sometimes I can't quite keep my mouth shut. *yahoo* Still working on that! Wink

tog redux's picture

Well - I'm not a bio mom, so maybe that helps? But at some point it occurred to me that SS is BM's son, not mine, and as much as I think a dog would be a better parent, she has the right to parent as she sees fit, and I have NO RIGHT to say anything about that.  She is very permissive and created a failure to launch situation, as well as teaching SS to lie and manipulate, but there is nothing I can do about her teaching him the family skills of how to get what you want through subterfuge.

All I can do is be a sane and normal person in his life, and hope he someday decides to choose a different path, and support DH in being a better parent than BM (he is, by far) and hope his influence helps SS as well. 

Your issue is that the person you are living with (your DH), is a crappy parent, so you have to live with the effects of his crap parenting.  I do not have to live with it, because a) SS19 doesn't live with us, and b) DH shuts down any crap behavior and calls SS on his stuff. 

I would run for the hills in your situation. 

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Whether I run for the hills or hold my ground remains to be seen, but I appreciate your candor.  I fully realize I'm putting up with ridiculousness and dysfunction that I don't have to.  There is a lot of good in my life though, that naturally doesn't get conveyed through my venting about SKID life.  But, I do leave my options open for the future.  I used to want to get married, but there is no way I would legally commit under the current circumstances.  No...friggin...way.

Your advice reminds me of another helpful tidbit from therapy, "People are allowed to be stupid.  I don't have to TELL them that they are being stupid, but I'm allowed to think it in my head."  Admittedly, I think those thoughts a lot. Smile

tog redux's picture

I guess I am someone who doesn't compartmentalize well.  I would be unable to separate DH's poor parenting from who he is as a husband, because in my mind, a good partner should care about his SO's needs. Your SO refusing to parent his kids creates a stressful environment for you, which in my mind, is him putting his OWN needs to be liked by his kids, over your need to have a peaceful home.  The love, respect and desire for sexy time would wither away for me in that situation. 

I see the way your SO parents as ultimately very selfish. He's harming his children and you out of a desire to be the "nice dad".  

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

If I'm completely honest...this is exactly how I feel.  I suppose I'm holding on hoping things will be different when the girls are all grown and gone, but it has definitely taken its toll.  I never wanted things to be this way. I honestly thought a big family could be great and I was more than ready and willing to be the grandma that has everyone over for holidays.  The first couple of Thanksgivings I held at our home and invited both extended families.  It was nice. And then it all went down hill. Before I joined the fam, life with my BS was so different.  Even with Asperger's, he was active in sports and eventually socially.  We always did fun things with other people.  I knew his friends, their parents, his coaches, teachers.  He knew my friends and welcomed having good people around our home.  Romantically our relationship HAS fizzled and I think my view of him is exactly why.  You get it!  I'm conflicted...always.  I respect MR. ED in so many ways for who he is, but it IS hard to separate the parenting or lack there of.  Like you, if I'm honest...I really don't separate it and it makes me think less of the man I love.  There...transparency.  Now...we're getting somewhere.  Thank you fellow SPs. <3  

tog redux's picture

Read on here, because these kinds of fathers keep babying and enabling their kids well into adulthood. 

Monkeysee's picture

I just keep repeating to myself 'they're not my kids. They're not my kids. They're not my kids' lol. It's taken some time but I've finally accepted they're really not my responsibility & how they turn out has little to nothing to do with me.

Cover1W's picture

Pretty much this, esp. when I feel an urge to "act like a parent" because no one else is.

I do try to be stable and available if YSD wants to talk, I know she likes me and listens to my opinions, she just doesn't want me to parent - which I push back on sometimes because I am the adult and get to have final say on certain things. But overall it's up to DH.

Myss.Tique D&#039;Off's picture

This is a tough one, because I adore my son and am still responsible for my SS19  even though I divorced his father. What I had to accept was that in life, I can't go back and change the past. Whatever happened and how ever ill equipped SS's parents were in raising him, it is not my duty to right that. I can not make up for it and I don't have any way to do it.  Neither should I even try. Precisely because I am not his mother... The mother and father role are played by two people still in his life.

The fact that his mother is generally absent and cannot care or that his father is overly-permissive and more interested in his sister,  who has completely messed up her life, is not something I am responsible for. I can only guide SS in what I think good behaviour is. I can love him and try to give him the same opportunities open to my son. I can teach SS that actions have consequences, set expectations, lead in him in constructive directions, but I can not make him do anything... I can try to form a responsible and decent adult in the time I have with him, but I will not blame myself or feel guilty for the hand dealt to him in the form of his parents.

My son and SS are quite close, they're basically brothers even though they share no biological bond. I have tried to treat SS as I would my own son - there isn't much more I can do - especially because I don't do any more for my own son.   

ishouldrun's picture

Being a member of StepTalk and posting/venting here and then listening to other's advice has changed my perspective a lot!  SS17's crappy, manipulative behavior used to set me off every time.  Over the past year I've learned to say over and over in my head "not my kid, not my kid" and take several steps back and remove myself from the situation.  Trying to be supportive of a SO who was a DD crap parent and now can't understand why his kid is a lying, manipulative, spoiled brat is hard.  I no longer give an opinion or advice unless he specifically asks me for it; otherwise my standard answer is "oh SS cancelled on you at the last minute again, that's too bad." I know now that I cannot rip the blinders of my SO's eyes because he wants to keep them on.  He would blame a stranger for his kid's shitty behavior before putting the responsibility on his son.  

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

For 6 years, we have all lived together in a blended household.  I cook for this family, I clean for this family, I work and put my hard earned money into this family.  I have carted children back and forth to doctor/dentist/therapy appointments.  I have gone to games, concerts, and back to school nights.  I have attended Meet Your Teacher Nights when MR. ED had to work late.  I have helped children fill out job applications, college applications, advised on scholarship and grant applications. I have bandaged wounds, helped with homework, taught how to do household and life tasks, taken children with me as I work, considered EVERYONE's schedule when choosing my work-from-home career, and even asked for the answers to the most intimate of questions when MSD tried to kill herself and NO ONE else had a clue, "What should we do?" I have sacrificed my own free time, peace of mind, lifestyle, and even regrettably some of my aspirations for these SKIDS.  For years, I adored them all and they sang my praises.  Then in their teenage years, their deep rooted wounds created well before I knew them rose to the surface in the form of behaviors, attitude, and self-destructive crap that I cannot condone, nor deserve to experience in my own home.  The kicker all these years BM to the 3 SDs is a ghost.  The only other likeness of a mother figure has done nothing motherly for as long as I have been around and long before that.  So maybe I am not doing a good job at this SP thing, or maybe I am not your cup of tea.  But to say I am "not in any type roll" is offensive and absurd.  Wow.

beebeel's picture

That one is the resident Negative Nancy. I suppose a modern description would be a Kranky Karen.

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

I am not her mom, but that is exactly what is hard about being in the SP ROLE.  I came into this situation freely giving my time, attention, love, and finances to children who are not mine.  I will not feel guilty because I gave all I could to SDs who do not want it or are incapable of accepting it.  I gave of myself and they stole from me, threatened me, lied to me, and generally treated me like a maid and POS.  So, yes I vented and laughed at a young lady FINALLY facing real-world consequences for her CHOICES.  You say that I don't even "like" her. this point I admit I do not.  She insists she is "grown" and chooses to do very dysfunctional and self-destructive adult things with actual adults.  I would never allow a grown woman or any adult to treat me this way.  No, I cannot "like" someone who abuses me, the people I love, and puts everyone else in this house and everything I work for in danger.  I will never feel guilty or apologize for that.

Hesitant to try's picture

Chamomile, what ages are your SKs? I have two SSs but they didn't come into my life until they were 18 and 20. We had some bumps because they were raised differently than I raised my own kids. My kids were more responsible and independent than my SSs were when we all became a family. Luckily, my DH was open to seeing the problems and making some changes.  No matter what, I tried to model good citizenship and was firm in how SSs needed to treat me, their dad, my kids, our home. I also always let them know that I/we were there for them as long as their behaviour was acceptable (respect, appreciation, kindness). I would encourage you to try to keep the door open, support them when you can and are willing, but without sacrificing anything you can't afford to sacrifice. My SSs have matured quite a bit and we now have a pretty good relationship. It is possible if everyone involved has the potential and the willingness. If your skids are simply monsters, and/or their Dad isn't willing to step up, there just isn't a lot to work with and you should always save yourself first. 

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Current ages:  Skids - 10 15, 16, 20, 22, BS - 22.  They were all 4-16 when we blended families.  The YSS gets lost in all this venting, but he is actually a joy to have around.  He gets a little squirrely when OSS is here too, but I do believe YSS has enough sense and caring parenting from BM/GPs that it should be pretty typical skid stuff as he grows up.  SSs have different BMs.  The 3 SDs (eldest of them all) are from a 3rd and absent BM, MR. ED's ex-wife.  Soooo...the dynamic is very different between me and the girls than it is with me and the boys.  The boys have full-time moms and I'm so thankful for THAT! :)  I know it sounds like an impossibly insane situation, I am.

Kes's picture

When I met my DH, his daughters were 5 and 7.  My daughters (who remained with my ExH when I went to live with him), were 21 and 19.    On many occasions in the first few years, I gave DH what I thought would be taken as helpful advice, but he saw it as unhelpful, so I stopped.  I disengaged after about a year in order to save my sanity.  Watching NPD BM bring up her daughters was like a slow car crash.   I don't feel I have any responsibility whatsoever for them.  

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

I will check it out.   The slow car crash analogy is so spot on.  Thank you.

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Printing now!  Thank you very much! <3

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Just wanted to take a time-out this morning to say thank you to everyone here.  Whether its criticism, advice, or all helps me process this chaos somehow at the end of the day.  I'm far from perfect and I don't claim to know how the hell to navigate this journey.  I just know that our family is dysfunctional and I am more unhappy than I am happy most days.  I'm just trying to sort it all out and change SOMETHING in a situation where others seem to be even more ill-equipped.  So thank you for taking time out of your busy lives to be here.  You are appreciated.  Even you, a twisted sort of way. lol

Exjuliemccoy's picture

The core of the dysfunction is the two bio parents. Your H has a lot of ownership in this mess. 

And what you describe is sadly common these days: a second marriage that is out of balance because the adults dont handle what they're supposed to, while staying in their own lanes. You can labor and sacrifice and try your heart out, but none of that will make an iota of difference if you're up against preexisting dysfunction rooted in issues like addiction, abandonment, predisposition to mental illness, or a partner who's a cr@ppy parent. The first three are above your pay grade, while the latter will negate or undermine most of your efforts. You simply can't fix this by overcompensating.

Unless/until you and your H get on the same parenting page (with the respective bio parent running point with their bios, of course) and are able to present a strong united front, you'll just be wasting your time and resources. Getting him into couples counseling would be my next move.




ChamomileTea4Me's picture

That's the hard reality of the situation.  Reading this site, at least I've learned I'm not alone in how naive and hopeful I was years ago.  I see so many good people on here with the best intentions that are struggling.  Starting out, I never could have imagined we'd be where we are.  I've told MR. ED, I can cope with just about anything someone I care about is struggling with (mental health, addiction, personality disorders, abuse recovery, etc) if they are truly trying to gain more self-awareness and seek professional help where appropriate.  I have done this on many levels myself, so I get it.  Its when there is a house full of people who are not interested in self-awareness, self-improvement, growth, and refuse professional help that I am at a loss.  Its hard to stay mentally healthy living around people hell-bent on self-destruction.  Counseling is on the table currently, so we shall see what happens.  Thank you for your well-thought-out response!  

ITB2012's picture

What general advice do you have for separating yourself from that feeling of wanting to right all the wrongs of the seriously dysfunctional BM/BD?

--read this site. It will show you that there are very rare instances where the SO does not parent out of guilt and allow their own kids to use shame to manipulate them.


If you come to any realizations or find something that works, let me know. I am not happy in the present situation, either, and I feel like I've exhausted all but one avenue to change it.

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Yes, I am so thankful I found this site!  I've been reading like crazy and trying to process anything that relates.  Honestly, I'm pretty disheartened right now about the whole situation.  I can disengage.  I have disengaged already so much more than I ever would've wanted to in an "ideal" family situation.  But then I think...this is now so far from the life I had imagined that at some point, I need to stop and take stock of where my future is really headed.  It's like taking a morning walk in the woods, following a pretty butterfly, and then realizing suddenly you are lost in the thistles, dropped your water bottle, lost your cell phone reception, the sun is going down, and that butterfly is long gone!  If I have any positive epiphanies or learn something to help, I will most certainly share. Thanks!

Doublehelix's picture

I guess first I would ask myself why I want to step in. If you're getting joy, satisfaction, and find it rewarding, then more power to you. Parenting SD7 is not any of these things to me, so I let her dad handle it. I am available to her as another adult role model, and support her dad as he parents, but I rarely step in and do things for her of my own volition. I do, however, step in if she's being disrespectful to anyone, bc I have basic standards of behavior for the household. But it's not your job to "fix" the stepkids, so again, unless you actually enjoy doing it, I can't imagine that's sustainable.

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

I use to enjoy the idea that MR. ED and I were working together to give all our kids a better life.  I still enjoy being there for YSS10 on the basic stuff.  I think that's one thing that is so hard for me... it's in my nature to be kind and helpful, but I learned from being single for 10+ years that I can only be that person when I have clear boundaries for how people treat me.  Before this, I gave no room to toxic people. So over time in this situation, I've put up walls and become very resentful.  I came to this site after the episode where SD16 threatened to hit me.  I think I've realized through listening and writing here today on ST that I don't know if I can move past that.  There is no joy in an abusive situation for me and I'm afraid that is something that not only gets in the way of joy, but is something I may not be able to forgive...not that SD16 is even apologizing, showing any remorse, or been held accountable in any way.  Like another STalker commented...I'm discovering this "fixin" is all well above my pay grade anyway!  Thanks for your input! Smile

Exjuliemccoy's picture

Perhaps the ED in MR. ED stands for Erectile Dysfunction? I mean, without cahones...

ChamomileTea4Me's picture the horse...a good horse with blinders on all the time. lol

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

Not to my knowledge anyway.  He is on this kick of not telling me what IS talked about, though, so who knows.  I did tell him that I absolutely will not sit at the dinner table with her or occupy the same R&R space with the fam so long as she shows no remorse or apologizes.  He has respected that.  Not nearly enough though, IMO.

Exjuliemccoy's picture

“What general advice do you have for separating yourself from that feeling of wanting to right all the wrongs of the seriously dysfunctional BM/BD?”

Start by recognizing that feeling is a YOU problem, and that your impulses aren't necessarily correct for the situation.

Kind, giving, people pleaser, likes to help, fixer, facilitator...often these terms are just a cover for codependent tendencies. I know, because realizing I have them really helped me in my marriage, in my disengagement process, and in life as a whole.

Approach the problem by identifying and working on your own issues first. Learn about codependency, apply that knowledge to your own behavior, and you'll be surprised at how many of your step issues resolve. 

ChamomileTea4Me's picture

I truly appreciate the thoughts, but yeah, I've worked on myself HARD through individual therapy and return to check in from time to time.  I'm not a people pleaser.  My mother was a people pleaser with a narcissistic personality disorder twist.  I do like to help others and wholeheartedly believe in being giving and kind, but that is how I believe we should all be...with boundaries.  That is why I have such a problem with the eldest 4 SKIDS.  MR. ED knows me and how I lived before him.  He knows that if you bring negativity, toxicity, dishonesty, manipulation, or intentional suffering to my life or my do not get a space there ever again.  So, that is how I ran my home for over a decade,  and i still do...except with SDs because I am not in a position to discipline them, send them to their BM (in jail), etc.  It is very frustrating when you constantly work on your own issues and those around you are stagnant.  SD16 and MR. ED are actually suppose to be meeting with Dr. in a few days to talk about therapy for her.  We shall see.  Thank you! Smile